April 13, 2017

SHOT: Trump and Xi – Tensions Turn to Friendship.

It’s safe to say very few people saw that coming. China was, as much as any country, the target of Trump broadsides during the 2016 presidential campaign—for not playing fair in the world economy, for taking advantage of the U.S., for stealing American business, for intimidating its neighbors.

Meantime, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the great-power leader who was supposed to emerge as the Trump favorite, the one who would develop a close relationship and be forgiven for past transgressions.

Yet somehow in the five months or so since Mr. Trump’s election victory, almost the reverse has happened. Now it appears the Trump-Xi relationship may be emerging as the world’s most important.

As Mr. Trump recounted in the interview, he spent hours with Mr. Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort last week, including long stretches minus their retinues. An opening discussion between the two “was scheduled for 10 to 15 minutes, and it lasted for three hours,” Mr. Trump said. “And then the second day we had another 10-minute meeting and that lasted for two hours. We had just a very good chemistry.”

CHASER: Kim Jong Un’s rockets are getting an important boost — from China.

When North Korea launched its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite into space last February, officials heralded the event as a birthday gift for dead leader Kim Jong Il. But the day also brought an unexpected prize for the country’s adversaries: priceless intelligence in the form of rocket parts that fell into the Yellow Sea.

Entire sections of booster rocket were snagged by South Korea’s navy and then scrutinized by international weapons experts for clues about the state of North Korea’s missile program. Along with motor parts and wiring, investigators discerned a pattern. Many key components were foreign-made, acquired from businesses based in China.

The trove “demonstrates the continuing critical importance of high-end, foreign-sourced components” in building the missiles North Korea uses to threaten its neighbors, a U.N. expert team concluded in a report released last month. When U.N. officials contacted the implicated Chinese firms to ask about the parts, the report said, they received only silence.

It is, as they say, complicated.